Finding the best back pain machine can be a challenge because there are hundreds of companies producing hundreds of devices with each claiming to be the best answer for you, and they don't even know you.
"Finding what works for you"
Everybody is different, and there are many different causes of back pain, so it makes sense that any one machine is not going to be effective for everyone. Finding the best back pain machine "for you" requires understanding what is causing "your" pain.
There are devices that will push, pull, position, electrify, and/or massage you in every imaginable position and direction. Some you can wear, some you lie on, and some you submit to, the variations are endless.
"considering how they work"
When trying to find a back pain machine that fits you and your situation, it can become quite confusing, but we can start by considering how they work. The various back pain machines can be divided into five broad groups.
* Electrical Stimulation Devices
* Traction Devices
* Motion Devices
* Positional Devices
* Massage Devices
Let's go through these back pain machines and see how they might be expected to relieve your pain.
Electrical stimulation can be used to alter the perception of pain. These units can be effective for a wide range of problems, and the risk of adverse complications is very low.
There are many types of electrical stimulation, but perhaps the best known is the TENS Unit (Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation). There are many theories on how these might work.
"not perceived by the brain as pain"
One theory supposes that your brain can only recognize one stimulus at a time, and the electrical impulse blocks the pain signal providing relief. Another group theorizes that the pain signal traveling through the nerve is scrambled by the electrical force and so is not perceived by the brain as pain.
With most of these devices there is 2-4 stick on pads that deliver low voltage electrical impulses to the skin, and you wear a small battery pack on your belt.
Traction devices can be used to separate the vertebrae making more space for the nerves exiting the spinal canal. Also known as spinal decompression, this can be very effective for pinched nerves or a herniated disc that is causing sciatica. Spinal decompression with traction is generally thought to be safe, although certain groups of patients may require supervision.
When pressure is applied, the space between the vertebrae opens up making more room for the nerves. When this is done regularly 3-4 times per day it allows the disc between the vertebrae, to hold more water, so that it stays taller and maintains the space for the nerves.
"ancient form of spinal decompression"
These back pain machines may be as simple as a weight hung over the edge of the bed attached to a pelvic belt or harness. The latest versions of this have a shoulder harness and a pelvic harness with the traction controlled by a computer.
An ancient form of spinal decompression is the inversion table. Your ankles are contained in cuffs and then you are rotated slightly upside down. The pressure or force of traction is provided by gravity. The pressure is controlled by how far you are rotated.
Motion devices work similar to stretching exercises by moving your spine through a limited range of motion. These work to prevent stiffness, and may be effective if you have a chronic loss of motion, such as ankylosing spondylitis or severe arthritis.
With most of these machines you simply lie on the machine with your back or your legs and it manipulates your spine while you relax. This can improve blood flow and improve or maintain your range of motion, with little or no risk of injury.
Positional devicesprovide relief by helping to maintain a more ergonomic position. They work by supporting the natural curves of the spine, most commonly the lumbar lordosis. These can be useful when driving or sitting for extended periods, or when your back is tired from overexertion. They are generally passive in nature and present no risk of injury.
These are often placed behind your back when sitting or you may lie on them when placed on the floor or bed. Their major action is to help maintain the spine in a more comfortable neutral position.
Massage devices vary in intensity from a soothing vibration to real rollers that manipulate the back muscles. These can be very relaxing and release the painful tension in tired overworked muscles, with no risk of injury. One of these units may provide some relief after a long day working in the yard, or after a busy stressful day at work.
These are often found built into furniture, or they may be a separate unit that you may lean against or lie upon. Other units are hand held and need to be applied by another person.
"has the potential to be very effective"
Every one of these back pain machines has the potential to be very effective for the right person with the right problem. The difficulty arises when you try to find the correct device for you and your problem. How do you know where to spend your hard earned dollars?
I wish I had a clear, 100% guaranteed answer to that question. But, the truth is I don't, and neither does anyone else. So listen to all of their claims with skepticism.
"if you can find the one that fits your problem and situation"
With that thought in mind, remember these things can work, if you can find the one that fits your problem and situation.
Here are a few ideas that may help:
Find a way to test drive the unit. Do they have a free trial period available? What is their refund policy? Are there any rentals available? Contact a physical therapist, they often have these units, and will allow you to come in for a trial.
Pay with your credit card. Get copies of the claims and guarantees that come with the unit. If it does not work the way you were told it would, return it and try to get your money back.
If products fail to perform, dispute the charges. When a company will not stand behind their claims, contact your credit card company and tell them you would like to dispute the charges on your credit card bill. You will have to submit a written explanation of your complaint, but credit card companies will often take the side of the consumer when products do not perform as advertised.
Have reasonable expectations.
None of these products are likely to make you pain free for the rest of your life. They are not intended to cure your arthritis, or make you 16 years old again.
The goal is to make you feel better, at least for a while. If you can find one of these back pain machines that can consistently provide enough relief to allow a good night's sleep, or make you comfortable enough to do your housework, or to enjoy a meal or an evening with your family, you have probably gotten your money's worth.